Kate sings the yeasties a song of encouragement after pitching the yeast
“It has all the things you would expect in a Christmas treat: Cinnamon, ginger, wormwood….” —James
This year for Christmas, we are giving away bottles of the outrageous Stocking Stuffer Stout, concocted by James. The recipe is roughly:
6.6 lbs. dark malt extract
1 lb. roasted barley, for roastedness
1 lb. ‘black patent’ malt, for darkness
1 lb. oatmeal
a bit of cocoa powder
And for seasoning: Cinnamon sticks, juniper berries, fresh grated ginger, dried peppermint, orange zest, honey, and wormwood.
“Sounds gross,” Kate said, upon reading the above list. It may, in fact, actually be gross. It is likely to be gross. There’s no way of knowing for sure until we try it.
David adds the malt while James happily stirs the wort with a giant homemade paddle
Dave and James got things started by boiling up a dark and roasted-smelling wort. The wort is basically beer that hasn’t been fermented–in our case, 3 gallons of water plus all the above grains and malt, boiling for around an hour. A taste-test of the wort brought on the following observation from David, “Smell this pack of cigarettes*. Now smell the wort. Which smells better? (The cigarettes).” The wort has a very smokey, roasted flavor, probably from the dark roasted barley.
We simmered the herbs and spices separately because we wanted them at a lower temperature, in case boiling would ruin their flavor.
The wormwood/juniper berry mixture simmers next to the giant pot of wort
Let’s talk for a moment about wormwood. Did you know that you can substitute any manner of herbs in place of hops? Well you can. Wormwood is an extremely bitter herb. James describes its taste as “oregano from hell.” We only used 1/4 ounce in 5 gallons of beer, so we’re hoping that is a reasonable amount to impart a slight bitterness. Wormwood is also stimulating to the nervous system. We shall see what the effects of the wormwood are upon the completion of the fermentation process–as will you! All I can say is that we each took a sip of the simmering herb mixture, and simultaneously made some really nasty faces. “It burns!” David exclaimed (probably from the dried peppermint–that stuff can really clear your sinuses out).
When the wort was done boiling we turned the burners off, strained the herb/spice mixture, and added it to the wort. We let the wort cool to 70° F in a flowing cold water bath in the sink.
There was much festive singing in the kitchen
Pitching the yeast
When the wort was finally cooled, we funneled all approximately 4 gallons into the clean and sterilized carboy. The carboy was topped off to 5 gallons with some extra water. Kate had the final honor of pitching the yeast. When all was said and done, the combination of all of those strong flavors ended up smelling like….celery? Yes, that was the smell of celery coming from the mouth of the carboy. What on earth have we created???
Will the magical yeasties turn the strong smokey flavored wort + extremely bitter and burning herbal mixture into a drink with smooth, blended flavors? What will the fermentation process do to the latent powers of the wormwood? Will this be a drink we can actually give to people? Time will tell. Yeasties, do your thing!
*The cigarettes are not his, mom ♥